The Ultimate Guide To Joining The IBEW apprenticeship

The Program

The Electrical Training Alliance (ETA) apprenticeship is the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers apprenticeship program. Their Inside Wireman program is 5 years, compared to most 4 year apprenticeship programs.

electrical training

The Electrical Training Alliance is the gold standard when it comes to apprenticeships. They have the highest quality training and apprentices who go through their program graduate with their state license and a series of Journeyman level certifications like OSHA 30 and Electric Vehicle Infrastructure training to jumpstart their career.

Joining ETA grants you many benefits that you will simply not find in other apprenticeship programs. You will become a sworn union member in the largest international electrical worker union in the world, will instantly begin getting vested in a minimum of two separate pensions, have full medical for you and your family, and access to all other IBEW member benefits.

While the benefits are great, getting into the Electrical Training Alliance can often not be an easy task. It is a very competitive program to join, and wait times to get in can be a year or more. Don’t let this dissuade you from joining however, these statements are very location dependent and you will not know until you try. While it is a competitive program, there are minimal prerequisites to applying.


Many who read that the ETA is a union apprenticeship are bound to have pre-conceived notions about it. If you are reading this and are having fears that you won’t be able to get in because you don’t know anyone or that you will only work 6 months out of the year, do not worry. These are very common misconceptions, and I address them all in my IBEW about page.


The prerequisites to apply for the ETA apprenticeship are as follows;

  • A high school diploma or GED
  • Completed Algebra I or higher
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Reliable Transportation
  • Ability to pass a color blind test

If you do not have the required math pre-requisite, you can take the Online Tech Math class that the Electrical Training Alliance developed as a substitute for Algebra I.

You do NOT need any prior electrical or construction experience to get in. The apprenticeship is designed to teach you everything you need to know from scratch.

Step By Step Guide to Applying

Step 1: Find your nearest local union

Go to the apprenticeship finder page, type in your city, select “IBEW” and hit search. This will show you the nearest IBEW office or training center. Keep in mind, if it’s the IBEW office this will often differ from the location of the training center, which may or may not be closer to you. Find their phone number and give them a call. You will want to ask these three questions:

  1. “Are you accepting new applicants to the apprenticeship program, and if so, when?”
  2. “What are the requirements to get into the apprenticeship, and what documents do I need to gather?”
  3. “Are there any pre-apprenticeship opportunities like the CW or material handler programs I can join to start getting experience now?”

Step 2: Gather Documents

It is time to start gathering your high school or college transcripts that show you have passed an Algebra I class, as well as any other document they said you would need. I recommend starting the process to obtain your transcripts as soon as possible as they often can take weeks to arrive for official copies.

If they offered a pre-apprenticeship program, take it. This will help you gather experience in the trade while working for the IBEW and increase your chances of getting in. You still need to apply to the apprenticeship program. Continue following theses steps.

Step 3: Prepare for the aptitude test

Every training center will require you to take the NJATC (National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee) aptitude test. This exam is a 69 question test with 33 Algebra and 36 reading comprehension questions, over a total time of 96 minutes.

Two to four weeks after you take the exam, the training center will receive your score results and if you pass, will schedule you for an oral interview. Your score on this test, and the score you receive when you complete your interview will determine your place in the queue from which the apprenticeship takes on new apprentices. You don’t want to simply pass the test to get the interview. You want to ace it. Here are some free and paid study guides to help you.

Free GuidesPaid Guides
Khan Academy AlgebraJob Test Prep Practice Exams
ETA Sample Test and information. (Left side has links, scroll to bottom)Electric Prep’s Reading Comprehension Course
iPrep PDFElectric Prep’s Math Course
iPrep Aptitude Test Practice (Free practice just under Youtube video)iPrep Aptitude Test Practice

Step 4: Prepare for your interview

After you have completed your aptitude test you will be scheduled for your apprenticeship interview. Your interview will be in front of a panel of representatives from the union and the contractors association. There may be upwards of 10 people in the room, although only a few may ask you questions. This can be a very intimidating environment and it’s vital you walk in prepared and confident. For the level of prep you should do going in, I have written a completely separate article on tips for preparing for the interview.

Step 5: Await your answer!

After the interview, they will let you know within a few weeks of your interview score and placement in the queue. Be in contact with the training center about when you start. If you do not get in this round consider reapplying. Many electricians I know got in the second time around as it shows you are serious and committed to joining. Just keep in mind the ample benefits of the IBEW.

Step 6: Buy tools

Once you heard you got in, they will give you a tool list with specific tools to buy. There are bundles you can buy online that will line up with most the basic tools you need. Buying them in bulk will save you money and make the process easier, and you can view my recommendations here.

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